Courage to tackle sex work
Spain is the European country with the highest demand for paid sex and the third in the world. Catalonia does not escape from this reality. According to the United Nations, 39% of men in the State have paid on occasion to have sex. Not only is Catalonia a leader in the consumption of sex work and in the number of brothels, it is also one of the main destinations in the world for the trafficking of women for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The alegality in which this business moves here has always favoured the exploitation of women, mostly migrants and in many cases minors, victims of mafias and illegal trafficking. Pimping is the great beneficiary of a situation that the Spanish government now wants to put an end to. In spite of some attempts, for example those made in Catalonia by the Minister of Justice Montserrat Tura in 2010, so far in the State has not really managed to have an impact on the problem of prostitution. Only in Navarra, despite the lack of a state legal framework, has a successful abolitionist strategy been developed with social and economic support for sex workers so that they can change their lives.
Spain is one of the few countries in Western Europe that has resisted giving a legal framework to sex work, a regrettable delay that now allows it, however, to learn from the mistakes and successes of the two major models: the abolitionist model, embodied mainly by Sweden and followed by France and other countries, and the regulatory model, with New Zealand and The Netherlands at the forefront, among others. The debate between abolitionism (emphasising the prosecution of clients and pimps) and regularisation (guaranteeing rights and duties for prostitutes) cannot derail the legal initiative to put an end to the sordidness of a world where only a few women freely and safely practice sex in exchange for money. Sex work must be tackled by focusing on the women who are forced or obliged to practice it -there are also men, but very few of them-. The best way would be to advance towards abolitionism, giving help and guarantees to girls and women who want to get out of their situation and pursuing pimping, without falling, from the outset, into total prohibition, given the labour demands of some of those affected. In any case, turning the purchase of sex into something socially unacceptable is an objective to be pursued. That said, as we have seen in France, legislating without putting in place the means and without real monitoring is of little use, and can even be counterproductive for women trapped in exploitation networks, the conditions of which can worsen. In any case, courageous progress must be made towards a law that for the first time addresses the reality of sex work.